It appears our nation’s divisiveness has spread well beyond water-cooler banter and coffee-shop talk, encroaching upon the sanctity of our traditions— the holiday get together.
For many people in my generation, the holidays were once a time when family set aside their differences in the spirit of the season. We avoided discussing topics that could spark family feuds. It was the Zeitgeist of the Walton family. A time when the unspoken rule to leave your baggage at the door prevailed.
Yet this tradition may now be waning due to increasing intra-family discord emanating from the political strife which has divided our nation. Regardless of political persuasion, many Americans feel compelled to voice their dissent -- be it on the streets at a protest rally or in grandma’s kitchen on Thanksgiving day.
If you consider the family as a microcosm of society, then it’s understandable to see why the nation’s angst is spilling over into our homes. Family members with polarized socio-political views are squaring off. This has pitted in-laws against in-laws, cousins against cousins, brothers against sisters, and wives against husbands. As a therapist, I have seen families torn apart due to the political dissension.
Americans are passionate about the future direction of our nation, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for family bickering to escalate into a scuffle. “What do you mean Trump is…,” as granny grabs the bird and slings it across the table.
So what can you do to prevent a flying Mr. Butterball? What is the best tactic to use if you find yourself at a holiday party and a relative wants to incite a futile political debate? I asked around and got some suggestions.
My cousin said to “try to win them over, prove your point with facts.” Call me crazy, but I think it is very difficult--if not impossible--to change a person’s beliefs at one dinner party. “Yeah, as I was saying about gun control--oh, can you pass the yams.”
A friend of mine goes for the avoidance approach. “I can’t stop him from going on about his politics, but I can seat him at the kid’s table.”
My dad goes for the change-the-subject tactic. When asked by his sister if he has heard the latest fake news, my dad responded: “Yeah, I watched TV. How about those Astros.”
Whether you see the world through a lens of blue, red or somewhere in between, it’s helpful to remember that our political leanings are influenced by the values we have developed over a lifetime. People can and do change, but it is usually a process that takes time.